June 16, 2021

How to be a good marketer


We all want to be effective at our job – achieve results for our company, clients, and entrepreneurial efforts.

But we are not just automated marketing bots. We are sympathetic, frail, complex creatures susceptible to the innumerous forces of nature that can befell us at any moment. Will our legacy be simply that we achieved quarterly results?

Or can we also leave a subtle but perceptible positive mark on the world we leave behind?

In today’s article, we explore how to be a good marketer.

Read on for a discussion of the distinguishing characteristics of a good marketer along with advice from marketers at Texas Tech University, SERVPRO, and Gartner.

by Daniel Burstein, Senior Director, Content & Marketing, MarketingSherpa and MECLABS Institute

How to be a good marketer

This article was originally published in the MarketingSherpa email newsletter.

I have a confession to make.

I’m not just a marketer.

I’m also a human being.

And if you’re reading this, you’re probably a human being as well (if you’re Google’s site crawler, you can feel free to ignore the rest of this article).

This may sound obvious. Or silly. But how easy is it to forget the rest of our lives when we are at work? How easy to make decisions in an organizational context that we would never make in a personal one? As a marketer, I want to achieve results. That is my focus.

But as a human being, I want to have a positive impact on the world.

These may seem at odds. You may have been brought up in the industry to believe that marketing isn’t a noble profession and your focus should be squarely on results. Leave that nobility to doctors and nurses, nonprofits and scientists researching cures and vaccines.

And yet, as a writer I am struck by how the English language has provided us one simple word to denote both essences of our being – the marketer and the human.


A good marketer achieves results. But a good marketer also has a positive impact on the world.

These two elements are not diametrically opposed. In fact, I would argue if you are not a good marketer in both senses of the word, the best you can hope for is short-term results. A flash in the pan. Marketing tricks and hacks will catch up with you. Or as Abraham Lincoln famously said, “You can fool all of the people some of the time…but they will burn down your brand on review sites and social media” (right around the time he said “85% of quotes on the internet are made up”).

Here are five hallmarks of a good marketer.

Hallmark #1: Helping your company deliver and communicate value

A business or any other organization is amoral. It is just a shell. It operates to achieve the goal it was chartered to achieve – usually generate a profit or enrich its owners.

However, the humans in that organization can bring morality – and sustainable results – into that organization.

A key way marketers can bring that goodness – and those sustainable results – into an organization is by helping the company create, communicate, and live up to a value proposition.

Delivering value to the company’s ideal customer – not every person in the world, that is impossible – helps make those people’s lives better in large and small ways while creating a virtuous cycle of satisfied customers.

As the tip of the spear for the company, marketers help customers perceive the value they can get from the company (that is, after all, the role of marketing) to create these satisfied customers.

“We need to understand the value proposition as essential to the thriving enterprise,” Flint McGlaughlin, CEO and Managing Director, MECLABS Institute says in On Value Proposition as the Essence of the Good Business (MECLABS is the parent organization of MarketingSherpa).

And communicating and delivering that value is essential to the good enterprise.

Hallmark #2: Understanding other human beings (we call them customers)

Think of the people you consider truly good in your personal life. One thing they all probably have in common is a deep understanding of others. They are the ones you probably go to when you are trying to figure out your spouse, try to get a message through to your kids, or get past the same argument you are having over and over with your parents.

You are essentially saying to them – “I don’t understand why this other human is acting in this way. Help me…”

Great companies rise and fall based on how well they communicate to and serve a customer. To communicate and serve those customers, they must understand a customer. You can say a product has “market fit.” You can talk about “big data.” Whatever buzzword you choose, you are essentially discussing the understanding of another human being.

“Marketing is not about selling, it is not about advertising, it is about a deep understanding of the customer. Recent graduates that want to make a marketing career would benefit from starting in sales or services where they can have indirect contact with the client. Learn to think as a client!” advised Dino Villegas, PhD, Associate Professor of Practice in Marketing, Rawls College of Business, Texas Tech University.

To truly understand another human being takes patience. That is hard enough in my personal life, but in the hectic and results-demanding world of the average marketing department it can be a Herculean effort to take a breathe, wait a beat, and dive deeper than your first assumption about the customer.

“One of the biggest mistakes that I have seen students and professionals make is trying to make short cuts, after they are presented with a marketing problem they jump into ‘we should use Instagram’ or ‘we should do a viral campaign,’” Dr. Villegas said.

Hallmark #3: Shepherd our fellow humans through change

You may not look at the film “Wayne’s World” as a font of deep human insights, but when Dana Carvey’s Garth Algar character utters these three simple words, he has tapped into a human dilemma that goes back to the dawn of society – “We fear change.”

That quote is true for organizations as well.

But it is the good marketer that can navigate their fellow humans through times of change in their lives, organizations through change in a competitive marketplace, and both together to help serve humans in an intensely competitive marketplace that exists in an ever-changing world.

At no period in my lifetime has this been more true than in the last year or so.

“The word ‘pivot’ has been a popular term throughout the past fifteen months, but I think a good marketer has to have the ability to pivot – to recognize a need for quick change and make it as seamless as possible for the customer. In addition to that, you have to deliver something to the customer that they may not know they need but will,” said Michael Stahl, Chief Marketing Officer, SERVPRO.

For example, when the pandemic hit, SERVPRO’s main lines of business were restoration and cleaning after disasters like hurricanes, storms, fire and more.

“However, we quickly realized last March that our company was in a unique situation to do something to help combat COVID-19 utilizing our products and services. Within weeks of the country essentially shutting down, we made a concerted ‘pivot’ and launched our Certified: SERVPRO Cleaned program, which we built from more than 50 years of cleaning industry experience to address viral pathogens like the coronavirus. Our professionals throughout the country helped businesses reopen their doors – and keep them open – by providing this deep-cleaning service throughout the past fifteen months. More than 50,000 businesses and organizations throughout the country have implemented this program since last May, making it a primary line of business for our company,” Stahl said.

Hallmark #4: Creating beauty

It’s hard to sit in a great symphonic hall – and not only hear the music in your ears but actually feel it coursing through your body – and not think that good is being created in the world.

Effective advertising and marketing should be many things – clear, helpful, informative. But there can be a certain beauty in communicating a message well. Or in the way a product delivers value. In the elegance of a customer experience.

For me, there was beauty in the Apple Think Different campaign. To me, it is a beautiful thing when you walk up to a Tesla and the recessed door handles automatically come out to welcome your arrival.

Not possible in a B2B setting you say? Marriott Rewards sends a year-in-review infographic to business travelers summarizing their trips (which helped the hotelier generate 86% more email-driven revenue). Every workday morning I am greeted by a beautiful image when I type in my password on my Dell Windows 10 laptop. That image isn’t necessary for the laptop to function. It could just be a plain blue screen. Microsoft chose beauty.

Whenever possible…

…choose beauty.

In a marketing context, that means you must be good at managing (and/or producing) corporate creativity. And you must never lose your wild spark.

Hallmark #5: A customer-first marketing strategy

A family member was counseling me through a tough time, and I will always remember her closing – “OK, now what’s your strategy?”

I wasn’t quite sure how to answer.

“Before you hang up, let’s decide ahead of time what you are going to do when you get off the phone…tomorrow…next week.”

None of the above hallmarks I mentioned matter – for people or organizations – if you cannot formulate a strategy to execute against that incorporates these approaches.

And that is no easy task.

“77.4% of small-business owners and leaders said that they considered marketing strategy a moderate or significant challenge,” said Sakshi Arya, SEO Marketing Associate, GetApp. The data is from a survey by Gartner's GetApp brand – the 2021 U.S. SMB Post-COVID Changes Survey of 601 small-business owners and leaders.

I can’t teach you how to create a marketing strategy in a simple article like this. Entire MBA programs are built around the subject. But if you are looking for a quick, straightforward lesson on how to take a more strategic approach to every piece of marketing you touch, you might find this video helpful – Optimizing Tactics vs. Optimizing Strategy: How choosing the right approach can mean all the difference in your optimization efforts.

Your legacy

The final song Warren Zevon wrote and recorded before dying of mesothelioma included these lyrics…

Sometimes when you're doin' simple things around the house
Maybe you'll think of me and smile
You know I'm tied to you like the buttons on your blouse
Keep me in your heart for a while

Of the billions who have and will ever grace this Earth, just a few of us will have our likenesses carved into marble or bronze. Or have our exploits recorded in the annals of history.

But as Zevon sings, the rest of us will hopefully be remembered in countless simple ways by the ones we’ve navigated this life with. Our spouse. Our children. Our friends. The folks you have loved.

That is not the only legacy. Every time you log into your marketing automation platform. Every advertising creative you approve. Every product or strategy meeting you attend. In these moments, your actions don’t just help drive the results your organization will achieve this quarter. They shape your legacy.

Here’s to making it a good one.

Related Resources

How to be a successful marketer

7 Examples of Using Marketing to Become a Force for the Good

6 Good (and 2 Bad) B2B and B2C Value Proposition Examples

Data-Driven Marketing: 7 examples of using data as a force for the good

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